Carbon: A Photographic Project – By Dan Zorg

Carbon is a photography project shot by me and my friend Fabio Passoni in 2020 and the beginning of 2021, in the middle of the Covid pandemic. In late summer of 2019 we had just finished setting up our new darkroom in Fabio’s basement. We managed to enjoy some months of blissful printing sessions before the pandemic hit. Here in Italy things started falling apart at the beginning of March 2020. The first lockdown was announced by the Government on March 8th (I remember because it’s also my birthday).

We quickly realised this was not going to be over any time soon, and after the first months we decided to resume shooting, developing and printing (with all the necessary safety measures of course). We decided to start this project together to document the new normal in which we were living. We are not documentary photographers though, and also we’d really had enough of all the images of deserted streets and empty supermarket shelves.

That’s why we chose to start documenting our personal feelings rather than the external situation. We wanted to give a visual dimension to our contrasting emotions during this unprecedented crisis in a controlled space (the darkroom), where we could develop connections between our memories and the dystopian present we were living in.

The result is ‘Carbon’: a series of images representing the chemical bonds that, in a tragic moment where all the foundations at the very base of our daily lives were falling apart. Foundations that we had thought were essential for our existence.

Carbon is a chemical element of the periodic table with the symbol C. It is present in nature in all life forms and, in its native status, can be found in the forms of graphite or diamond (allotropes).

These more or less pure forms of the element are born in different physical conditions, giving it opposite features. C has also the singular attitude to form chemical bonds with itself and with a wide variety of other elements. The infinite number of organic compounds originating from Carbon are essential for Life itself.

These last two years have brought all of us back to basics, separating us from those life compounds that we took for granted. And now the new elements at the base of our daily routine are emerging, making us look further, figuring out which of our chemical bonds are, after all, really essential for Life.

We decided from the very beginning this was going to be a 100% analog project. All images were shot either on HP5+ or Tri-X (pushed 1 or 2 stops) and developed in ID-11. Of course the choice of film was deliberate to achieve the kind of mood we were going for, but ultimately I think it was the time spent in the darkroom, developing and printing the shots, that proved to be an integral and decisive part of the project itself. Those few hours of self-exploration every week in the room where time stops and everything lays still. 

You can see more of my work on Instagram, or on my website.

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9 thoughts on “Carbon: A Photographic Project – By Dan Zorg”

  1. Amazing work, Dan and Fabio. Like echoes of of Ralph Gibsons Somnambulist. The dog on the crosswalk reminds me of «O Diário de Um Mago», The Pilgrimage, Paulo Coelho walks the Camino de Santiago and meets his demon in the form of a dog. Keep printing, and have a good sunday!

  2. I’m always glad to hear of a new darkroom being built!
    The photograph of the dog and the rowboat really caught my eye. But, the rowboat edges out the dog; there’s just something I like about it.
    I just love the golf ball sized grain of the blimp photo. It’s got a look of a gravure printed image.
    Overall, a nice representation of work. A nice article to read.
    Now, I’m going to put my (retired) photography teacher’s cap on. My only quibble/crit addresses the multiple dust/dirt spots on some of the images. They detract from the powerful photographic representation. These non-image defects are the visual equivalent of a mosquito buzzing in your ear. Are you able to clean them up? Or, you can just tell me to pound salt.

    1. Happy you enjoyed the article Daniel, many thanks for your feedback. Dust and water spots are the inevitable result of our sloppy care of the negatives I’m afraid.. will definitely pay more attention in the future

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